The Redskins have turned over much of their response to the name issue to an assortment of former players in recent days, most prominently Chris Cooley, Joe Theismann, Mark Moseley, Ray Schoenke and Gary Clark.
Four of those men starred in the alumni special that aired on Comcast SportsNet Wednesday night, a program co-produced by the team and hosted by reporter Chick Hernandez. One segment of the hour-long show was devoted to the name issue, and the former players were not striking a conciliatory tone.
“If it really bothered Native Americans, do you not think they would not be like blacks, gays, Hispanics, and march on Washington?” Clark asked at one point. “Of course they would. Of course they would. You say the word ‘Redskins,’ most people think of the Washington Redskins football team. You’re talking about 90 percent of the population does. The Washington Redskins is the only team in the National Football League whose name actually has meaning to it. And [that's] why we played so hard to represent that brand.”
Clark had said something similar to me recently, that Washington’s team has “the only name in the National Football League that had substance and meaning behind it, besides the Minnesota Vikings.”
And in fact, Clark also mentioned the Vikings during the CSN program, when Hernandez asked what he would say to those Native Americans who are offended by the name.
“I know about equal rights,” Clark said. “I’m all about equal rights. So quite honestly, I wanted to go hear it from the horse’s mouth. So I went directly to the Native American Indians and I directly asked them, ‘the word Redskin, is it offensive to you, am I being disrespectful of you in in any way?’ And they were like no. Not at all. I said ‘What does the word mean to you?’ And it’s the same thing it meant to me….
“They said it means character, a resilient people, a respected people who are a brotherhood of people, who mostly were a warrior [people]. We will not back down from any cause that we believe in. And think about it. That’s what it means. They don’t back away from anything that comes at them, no matter what. The Minnesota Vikings — Vikings are no longer here. Native American Indians are still here. They did not go away. They did not back down from anybody. And that’s to me what the word meant.
“So when people say it’s the N-word, it’s not. It’s not even close. You haven’t heard from nobody, one person, get upset by calling somebody a Redskin. Who?”
In point of fact, a wide variety of Native American groups and tribes have come out against the name, including the National Congress of American Indians, the United South and Eastern Tribes, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, the Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the Menominee Tribe of Indians, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Sault St. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, and so on, according to leaders of the protest movement.
The other former players agreed with Clark.
“They see it as a football team,” Cooley said of Native Americans. “I don’t quite understand — no one’s going to reservations and using it derogative towards those people. It’s noted as a football team who really truly respects the name.”
“You know the word that made them upset?” Clark asked. “They said ‘Gary if you called me this, if you called me a prairie [N-word], we’re gonna have problems. That was the word that upset them. Not Redskins. Not Redskins.”
“Most of my fans out there know me and know what I stand for,” Moseley said. “If I thought for a second, for a split-second that I was insulting somebody, I would not object to this at all. Because it’s a name of a football team. But that has nothing to do with it. There’s a lot more to this than the name change.”
“In the PC world we’re in, we change this name, then what else can we change?” Cooley asked. “What ball does that start rolling? Where do we go?”